And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...Eph. 4:11-12
Favorite words of the above mentioned A.P.E.P.T.
Apostles: plant, plant, plant
Prophets: prophesy, prophesy, prophesy
Evangelists: preach, preach, preach
Pastors: protect, protect, protect
Teachers: prepare, prepare, prepare
Each favorite word by itself is at best, a partial picture of all that is needed. Together the five form a powerful force for carrying out Christ’s purposes for his church.
Sadly, instead of working together as a team, and allowing the various tensions to coexist, the A/P’s are often seen as the “black sheep” of the APEPT family. A/P’s seem to always be stirring up trouble and questioning the status quo. If the P/T’s are doing their best to fill their church pews, A/P’s are trying to empty them. If A/P’s are harping on making disciples of the nations, P/T’s are worried about all the bad doctrine bound to arise from sending “spiritual babes” into battle without adequate preparation. E’s are happy to just be out there preaching the Good News and not all tied up in the complexities going on with the A/P brothers on their left, or the P/T brothers on their right.
While A/P’s are out there pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor, S/T’s have their foot on the brakes! E’s are oblivious to what is going on in the drivers seat, and are only interested in getting the windows down so they can sing, “Jesus saves, Jesus saves...” as they rush past folks standing by the side of the road.
The problem of all five is that we have a hard time accepting anyone who is not one of our own kind. A/P’s, in particular, have been marginalized to almost be considered an “endangered species.” Legitimate A/P’s are the hardest to find or identify within the Body of Christ. A/P’s by nature do not often carry the proper credentials and dislike titles like Pastor, Rev., or Dr. They aren’t usually known for their slick blogs or prolific Tweeting. When they do speak, their voices and actions make us uncomfortable. A lot of their ministry sounds like it is coming out of “left field.” Seldom do A/P’s coincide with the standard “right-wing” S/T church views. In a church not meant to have factions, A/P’s would be considered the left-wing “liberals” of the church–loved and tolerated, yes–but kind of weird, disruptive, and even dangerous for our youth! Of course, E’s in the center can go either way, depending on which side has invited them to preach!
But what is needed? What is missing from this picture? Obviously all five are important or Christ would not have given such a diverse bunch as a “gift” to His church.
I would be the first to confess all who are gifted with one of the APEPT functions/roles need to learn to listen, trust, respect, honor, and work alongside one another. We need to sit down with one another. Talk to one another. Learn from one another. Value our differences. Read books from one another’s different “camps.”
We must be clear that the “he” in verse eleven above refers to Christ, the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Church. It is not just pastors and their staffs who are charged with the responsibilities of caring for, perfecting and training the saints for the work of service. There are supposed to be FIVE cooperating service departments entrusted with duties of perfecting the saints.
Paul further clarifies the aforementioned APEPT chronology in I Corinthians 12:28-29,
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers...All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they?
It is God himself who appoints in his church his own priority order, 1) apostles, 2) prophets, 3) teachers. Obviously missing from the Corinthian list are evangelists and pastors. My own theory is that there is a lot of overlap between apostles and evangelists and Paul joins the two into the apostolic function. Same thing goes for pastors in that their roles often coincide with those of prophesying and teaching.
I personally understand both the Ephesian 5-fold APEPT list and the order found in I Cor.12:28-29 as chronological. It is not that apostles are more important or higher in rank than prophets, but that the order in which each appear is divinely appointed by the Lord himself.
First, apostolic workers are needed to cast vision, plow ground, mobilize, plant seed, preach, water, and be present at the birth of new churches. Prophets accompany apostles every step of the way, speaking to men “for edification and exhortation and consolation.” (I Cor. 14:3)
Prophets confirm and establish that which has been laid down by apostles and “see things” from a spiritual perspective to keep us all in tune with the Spirit’s leading.
Evangelists are also part of this process and often the terms and roles are one and the same with apostles and prophets. Evangelists are especially helpful in making known the message of salvation to those who are have been engaged by the initial work of apostles and prophets.
Once there is a new group of disciples; elders, pastors, shepherds, teachers, and the rest of the I Cor. 12:28-29 list emerge. It is almost like APE's start the ball game, and PT come in and finish up, freeing the APE's to start again elsewhere. But APEPT's are always on the move. About the only static ones would be elders, but that is a subject for another post.
In conclusion, all five roles are important. All five verbs are essential. All five functions co-exist to perfect the saints for the work we have all been called to fulfill in Christ Jesus.
What are some of your thoughts on the above?